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East Cleveland City Council, mayor in court over CARES Act funding dispersal

Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 9:50 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Leaders of a local city are at odds over federal coronavirus relief money their municipality received last year.

East Cleveland City Council members say they can’t figure out where the federal funding went. The city’s mayor says he spent it all legally.

19 Investigates obtained new court documents that show the controversy has landed in Cuyahoga County Court.

The documents filed accuse East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King of disbursing “over 4 million dollars of CARES Act money to unknown parties without competitive bidding or city council knowledge and approval.”

Council President Korean Stevenson says the council has been trying to figure out where the funds went since last fall.

“The benefits from the CARES Act are supposed to be for the city so that the city doesn’t suffer,” she said.

The stimulus bill passed by congress last year includes strict instructions on what municipalities were allowed to spend the money on and by when.

Stevenson says, “Some of those funds were spent doing other things in the city that the council has no knowledge of.”

The mayor, however says that’s not true.

We called and messaged him before confronting him at his office Tuesday.

After turning us away at first, King sat down with us, saying he has told the council where the money went.

“I have not done anything wrong with the CARES Act money,” he said.

He says in November he told council about his intentions for the money. Tuesday, he gave us documents his finance director printed off, showing that the city did in fact report to the state how it used the money.

The paperwork says chunks were used for small business recovery grants, PPE, court technology upgrades and the majority was spent on safety forces like first responders.

King says his office has tried to explain that to the council.

“Four times,” he said. “I explained it. Charles explained it. The chief of staff explained it. We keep giving it to [Stevenson] and she keep asking what happened to the money.”

However, according to the court filing, King has not provided the documents he gave 19 News to the council.

And according to the date on the papers King gave us, his office filed reports on January 5th. That’s right before the federal deadline and months after the council hired an attorney to find out where the money ended up.

An attorney that the mayor has refused to pay, according to Stevenson.

“The charter gives us the right to hire and employ that person, so I thought that was the best way to go,” she said.

And she still does. But, she’s having to fight for the funds to pay the attorney who filed the case. The court documents request a judge order King release the money to pay legal fees.

The point is though, that the back and forth has landed a councilwoman and mayor in court ordered mediation.

“It is something we would not like to do, because inevitably it brings the news in,” King said.

Stevenson says, “It’s very frustrating. It’s very hurtful, because it’s hurtful to the community.”

Mediation is scheduled for February 19th.

We’ll keep you updated on what happens.

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